Story by Kristina Hoti
On Sun., Sept. 1, the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce held its 12th Annual Pine Island Onion Eating Contest at the Polish Legion of American Veterans Pavilion. The event took place in conjunction with the Annual Onion Festival, featuring entertainment by area legend Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra, and the Pokolenie Dancers.
Attendees of the Onion Festival purchased advance tickets for $18 or paid $20 at the door, which covered the cost of the Orchestra, and contestants of the onion eating contest registered in advance, with registration limited to 12 contestants.
A tricky tray and 50/50 raffles were held to benefit the Auxiliary, traditional Polish fare was available for sale, along with a selection of local beers, and the polka music kept feet tapping and many folks dancing throughout the event. The number of Pokolenie Dancers this year was a bit less than in past years, due one of the members having been married on the same day. Many from the group were celebrating this happy occasion with their fellow dancer.
Robert Gillespie Wins Onion Eating Contest
The crowd hooted and encouraged the contestants as they undertook the challenge of the onion-eating competition. Participants raced to be the first to consume a raw, eight-ounce onion, supplied by Harvest Queen Farms Alex Kocot. Robert Gillespie was the winner with a time of 1:32. Gillespie’s efforts were rewarded with a plaque, provided by the Orange County Farm Bureau and a $100 check from the Orange County Vegetable Growers Association. This year was Gillespie’s second win, after winning in 2017, which was also his very first onion-eating contest.
This annual celebration of the onion honors and promotes the rich agricultural industry of the Pine Island area while celebrating the Polish heritage of the community. With support from the Orange County Vegetable Growers, the Orange County Farm Bureau, and the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, it is a fun celebration to conclude the summer season and truly brings the Pine Island community together.